Healthcare organizations react to provincial budget

The Government of Saskatchewan announced a $6.8 billion investment in healthcare.

Apart from that investment, an increase of $21.6 million will address the surgical backlog issue, $12.5 million in new funding for 11 additional ICU beds, and a $4.9 million increase for CT and MRI scans.

Seniors in the province will see a $17 million increase in support with a $10.8 million increase in Emergency Medical Services.

The government will also be establishing a new and independent agency dedicated to recruiting and retaining health care workers.

CUPE Local 5430 President Bashir Jalloh said they appreciate the announcements but feel the Government could have done a better job addressing the healthcare staff shortage.

“We appreciate that they talk about creating an agency to look at recruitment and retention in the province, but if you go around in this province and look at healthcare facilities and the shortage of staff, this is nothing to appeal to the problem we are talking about.”

We need staffing. We did not see much in this budget to address the staffing problem we are having in this province,” he added.

Jalloh said that the Government’s investments in imaging and additional surgeries would be useless without more healthcare workers.

“When you do private surgeries, people have to return back into the public system for the aftercare. You can increase all the money to do surgeries, but when these people come back after their surgery, they are going to need people to look after them.”

Jalloh said that the Government’s investments in imaging and additional surgeries would be useless without more healthcare workers.

“When you do private surgeries, people have to return back into the public system for the aftercare. You can increase all the money to do surgeries, but when these people come back after their surgery, they are going to need people to look after them.”

Jalloh said the investments into healthcare are good news, especially with a program announced to retain and recruit healthcare workers, but the Government needs to make sure these are full-time jobs.

“People graduate from universities here, and it is very easy to recruit people, but the biggest people we are having is the retention,” he said, “You can recruit people, but if you don’t give them a full-time job, they are going to leave the province. Create full-time jobs that will let people stay in the province. If you go to the Saskatchewan Health Authorities website, most of the jobs you see are temp positions, ending in two, three, six months. That is not the solution.

The Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) was more positive in responding to the provincial budget.

Dr. Eben Strydom, the president of SMA, said they welcome the budget initiatives that support the recruitment and retention of physicians, begin to tackle the surgical backlog and provide resources to address the ongoing challenges the pandemic is placing on a strained health care system.

“The SMA looks forward to providing physician perspectives into the formation of this agency. Recruiting physicians and retaining them requires long-term, prudent planning to prevent shortages in the future.”

He said a positive is a province spending $95 million for ongoing pandemic spending.

“The COVID-19 virus is still among us. It hasn’t gone away, and it continues to put enormous pressure on the health system and health care workers,” he said. “As we have seen during previous waves of COVID, the health system needs adequate resources to respond to immediate and emergent medical needs.”

Dr. Strydom added that the backlog in surgeries and medical procedures would require long-term planning and funding to bring wait times down to manageable levels.

“The step announced today to address the backlog is welcome, but it is only a first step in providing relief for patients whose procedures have been postponed. Physicians will be pleased when their patients receive the care they need.”

President for the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses Tracy Zambory said the province has been suffering a staffing crisis, and COVID-19 exposed some holes in the system.

“We need to have a strategy that’s implemented pretty quickly because we have a system that’s still really under pressure from dual forces,” she said.

The province is behind by about 35,000 surgeries, and Zambory said a lot has to be done to bring that number down.

“When we talk about recruitment and retention, we can’t just say those words. We actually have to dig into them and make them real,” she said.

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